- Book reviewer
- Biographies and personal histories, Book reviews, History - pre-Federation, Royal Navy, Biographies
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- September 2005 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Title: The Biography of Captain Sir Richard Spencer RN, Government Resident at Albany, Western Australia 1833 – 1839 (Napoleonic War naval hero and Australian pioneer) Author: Gwen Chessell, 2005, Publisher: UWA Press, ISBN 1 920694 40 4
Gwen Chessell has produced a valuable contribution to the history of Western Australia as well as the story of a successful naval officer. After a traditional period of service in the Royal Navy during the wars of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Richard Spencer went on to be an administrator in the fledgling colony of Western Australia.
Born in 1779, he joined the Royal Navy in 1793 as a captain’s servant (later designated Volunteer 1st Class in 1794). Ms. Chessell gives a detailed account of life and conditions in the RN at that time. It was necessary for any ambitious officer to have a patron; without “interest” there was little chance of promotion to worthwhile rank and command. Richard Spencer had his first experience of battle at the Glorious First of June 1794. This was the beginning of long and active service in the RN. We follow his career until he retires as a Captain on half pay in 1817 to Lyme Regis on the Devon/Dorset border. His half pay together with his prize money enabled him to live a comfortable life and raise a large family. He considered emigrating to New South Wales or Van Dieman’s Land in 1829. However, not until 1833 when he received his knighthood and was introduced to James Stirling, was he appointed as Resident at Albany, Western Australia.
The detailed account of his life in Albany, at that time a small insignificant place remote from all aspects of civilisation, is well described. Richard Spencer’s experience as a naval officer stood him in great stead during this period.
Ms. Chessell has produced a delightful book, illustrated with coloured plates and simple maps. It is of interest to both those concerned with the naval history of the period and those interested in the history of early Western Australia.
[Reviewed by George Elliott, Chairman WA Chapter]